23 August 2017

My experience with Esports

    When I was younger, I never thought myself the sporty type. I didn't enjoy football or cricket, sure I'll join in with friends for and hour and a bit, usually stay in goal, usually miss, didn't really care a whole lot as I didn't take it seriously. It was nice to just hang out with friends and chat about whatever. First to drop out so others can join in, not so much out of charity, it was just more important to them than it was to me. But despite my lack of interest with the sport I still held my first professional match with high regard. I went with my dad, he bought the three of us (him me and my little brother) tickets, we found our seats and bought a can of coke, and even though I didn't know the rules of proper football, I knew 100% what was going on at all times. There was a certain energy at the event that hooks you in, an amazing feeling. Thousands of people surrounding you, all experiencing the same euphoria, when the ball gets close to the goal. It's a simply amazing feeling, one you kinda have to experience to understand. I didn't follow football after that, I'll keep an eye on England at the world cup but the premier league I just couldn't care less about. However, that wasn't the end of sports for me as a whole...

    In 2012, 5 and a bit years ago, I discovered the game League of Legends. The game was fun, I enjoyed playing it, but I didn't fully understand it at the time. So I was looking online for any better players who I could learn from, it was from there I found out there were professional leagues for the game, E-sports. I was surprised, I hadn't even thought about them before, that there could be tournaments for it, nevermind one's well broadcast online. Maybe for fighting games or Starcraft: Broodwar, but somehow I thought LoL just wasn't there. I watched a bunch of games that week, followed the event that was going on at the time. The name TSM was being cheered by fans in every single games regardless of whether they were playing or not, the name stuck with me. I seen them play later that event and found out they were from America, this further interested me, helped me relate to them as a team. And the final nail in the coffin, the thing that sealed me as a TSM fan from then on out, I seen this video. In this I seen the team I had just been cheering for at their deepest, most intimate level. I had just seen more than a player, I seen a human being with thoughts and emotions, crying over his teammate and friend having to leave. This really hit home for me, my heard went out to Dyrus, and I wanted him to succeed, wanted him to be happy. I had found my player, found my team, and after following them for a while I started to know more and more about the rest of the team. I did my research into the team, looked for any media I could find on them. Team video's, interviews, articles on them, articles by them, I wanted to know more, and with each snippet of information, I felt myself growing closer to them. During close matches, I felt that same sense of euphoria watching live, as I did when I was at that football match oh so long ago now.

    The first roster change I didn't really have long enough to get to know Chaox, the person in the video before, so the team as I new it was already using his replacement. The first roster swap we had to make since then was the owner of the team leaving to focus on management, which majority of the fans couldn't be happier about. Reginald, the mid at the time, was a total douchebag. He was constantly was constantly a bad influence on the team, and constantly starting beef with the other players to big himself up. He was a very emotional character who everyone was happy to see replaced, him stepping down and getting replaced definately made later transitions easier to swallow, however every time it happened I still thought of Dyrus, hoped he dealt with it ok and wasn't too heartbroken. I liked the old team members and still check up on them every now and again, pop in Odd One's stream every once in a while, but I was comfortable moving forward with new players and new teammates who I grew to love just as much over time, especially the 2014 season team with Dyrus, Amazing, Bjergsen, Wildturtle and Lustboy. I felt that year was when TSM was really at their peak, if they were going places, it was with that roster, and they won a lot of events they attended, however all great things must come to an end. Come the end of the 2015 season, there was a lot of changes made to the team, nearly a full restructure. With Dyrus retiring, Amazing already left and his replacement was being benched, Wildturtle was replaced, LustBoy and coach Locodoco went back to Korea for a while. The team that I loved for so long was essentially disbanding, my favorite player was retiring from the scene for good, during his final interview on stage, I legit broke into tears. (Hell, even watching it back today 2 years later, I can't help but choke up a little bit.) I still love TSM today, though it's not quite the same. I still want the team I've cheered on all this time to succeed, but if a player get's benched or retires, I'm not gonna bawl my eye's out this time around.

    I was fairly new to the competitive smash scene a few years after it had first really taken off. I'd always played the game, and already knew something was starting, but didn't really have an introduction into the scene until much later. When they were first starting out, it was only American's and Japanese who played it seriously, Europe didn't host tournaments at all, and we didn't have any way of actually keeping up with it unless you were already there, there was no youtube, no twitch, we didn't even have proper capture techniques at the time, games were filmed on phone camera's, and even then only rarely. The only way to keep up with the scene was the Smash Boards website a little unknown forum where people would post about their little underground tournament they were hosting over at Matts house. However as time and technology went on, I started to learn a bit more about it and with the release of The Smash Brothers a documentary about the history of competitive smash, I started enjoying it more and more, becoming more interested in the tournament side of things, rather than just being a player who enjoyed playing for fun with friends. The whole scene is still fairly fresh to me, still very exciting and new. I'm still learning a lot of the names of top contenders, though there are some names I recognise from past events or The Smash Brothers I mentioned before. I'm eager to see where the sport will be a year or two from now, see if it's still the same game I'm enjoying today, sincerely I hope it is.

    Esports surprised me, as I said I never thought myself to be the sporty type. But within some of these online leagues and tournaments, I found a scene I could follow, a scene that has had me love and lose with my team, my players. THAT! Is my experience, with Esports.

6 August 2017

Learning League of Legends with different champions, and how other games can learn from this.

    League of Legends has long been regarded a really difficult game to get into. It is thought to have very little in way of a tutorial, and you'd be right to think that. While there is a brief tutorial, it isn't very deep. It cover's the absolute basic's of League of Legends, the rules you have to follow, and that's all. The rest is up to the player to figure out. This can be a problem because you don't necessarily know what you're doing when you first start playing, a lot of new player's feel like they don't get taught what tool's they have available to them throughout a game, often relying on 3rd party content creators to teach them, or friends who already play to coach them. In this article, I wish to tackle this misconception, and introduce the League of Legend's method of teaching game mechanics to a player, and how other game's could learn from this.

    The genius behind this game, is that they introduced character's specifically for learning about these new tool's, and encouraging the player to practice using them to garner an advantage. I will be talking about 5 characters specifically, Cho'Gath, Kindred, Veigar, Shen and Teemo. I have chosen these characters, because they all have unique abilities, that push player's to trying new things or perfect essential skills in order to utilise properly.

    Cho'Gath is a Jungle Champion, who's ultimate ability deal's extremely high damage to a nearby target, more so if the target happens to be a Jungle Monster. He is encouraged to save this ability for the final blow, because if he does so, he get's a small health boost. Due to his Tank role, this is very important to him and something the player will want to do whenever possible, however it also subconsciously teaches players to better secure neutral objective's, because the only thing that matter's is who gets that killing blow. As the Jungler has access to the Smite ability, that responsibility lies to them, it is a crucial skill to learn, and one that Cho'Gath really help's people learn about.

    Another Jungle champion, Kindred, is a champion who specialises in playing aggressively in their opponent's jungle, because of their Passive ability, Mark of the Kindred. This is a rather complicated ability, periodically it will mark your opposing junglers resources, if they manage to steal those resources their combat effectiveness goes up. This is very a powerful but very risky strategy, by extending deep into enemy territory, if you get caught in a bad position, you're going to be in a lot of trouble. However you still want to utilise this ability, it gives you a lot of bonus's that you don't want to pass up on, so you try to do it. If you fail, you learn from your potential mistakes, and take them into consideration with further tries. This design pushes new player's to try this more aggressive playstyle, and when they get used to the nuances of it, you are left with a tool that other champion's can also utilise, and knowledge of how to pull it off.

    Different role now, Veigar is a midlane champion, who's known for his slow start but crushing lategame potential, due to his infinitely scaling damage based on how long the game last's, how many things he kills with his Q ability, Baleful Strike. Every time this ability lands a finishing blow on a champion, minion, monster, anything, his spells get marginally stronger. You won't notice the damage increase going from 4-6, however as the game goes later and he gets the oppotunity to abuse this free source of power 200-300 times, he eventually become's borderline unstoppable. Veigar player's are encouraged to do this, it is a very powerful upside, and it has the added bonus of guaranteeing what is known as the last hit on the unit you targeted. This help's people practice one of league of legends most vital skill's in game, and feel like it's what they're supposed to be doing. So come time to play other character's, you feel a little more comfortable with it, as you've been practicing it with him.

    One of the other Tank champion's, Shen, is a fantastic champion to help you learn Map awareness, because it's literally all his ultimate ability is useful for. He sheild's a teammate, no matter how far away from him they are, and after a brief channel he teleports to them to assist them in their fight. This is a fantastic learning tool because it is such a powerful ability, it is where a significant amount of his power budget is kept, that to simply never use it would give you a bad performance. So you consistantly want to keep an eye on the rest of your team, what they're doing, when they're fighting and when you're needed to help them. This also serve's another purpose because majority of toplane champion's, where Shen is played, are required to take the Teleport spell so they can hold sidelane's and still have the out of combat mobility to effect the rest of the map. Shen's ultimate is a great teaching tool for this, as it encourages the player to focus on that aspect of the game to be successful with the champion.

    Teemo is slightly different to everyone else on this list, in that his goal is to simply annoy everyone and anyone on the enemy team. It's become something of a joke that Teemo has a "Global Taunt" ability, when he show's up on the map everyone moves to his position and tries to kill him, because everyone will remember playing against that one really good Teemo player who didn't let them stay in lane for 20 seconds at a time, never died under pressure, then annoys the rest of his opponant's with his high damage seemingly out of nowhere. Teemo has the tool's to keep himself safe with his free vision on his ultimate's trap's, and the movement speed on his W "Move Quick", and he's forced to use those tool's because he get's so much focus from the enemy team. Teemo teaches the player about the importance of vision control, and not throwing away a lead overextending.

    Introducing these strength's and weaknesses to push the player into learning new and important skillset's can be extremely important in games with large variety of playstyle's, games such as Moba's and Fighting games are probably the most famous example's of where this can be applied, but to a lesser extent all genre's could benefit from this in same way. It add's a helpful curve of skill for the player to follow, it gives them the tools to learn these obscure but important lesson's within the game, and facilitates growth within the player naturally, in a way that makes the player feel like they've advanced on their own and gotten better by themselves, as opposed to straight tutorials which can be useful for the basic's, but can also leave the player feeling burnt out or overwhelmed if they get everything handed to them on a silver platter. You would emphasise this in other games by focusing on these strength's and weaknesses in the playable character. An FPS character might have very straight forward movement and control, but might be very reliant on the player being a good shot such as Soldier: 76 in Overwatch. an Action RPG like Titan Soul's, emphasises the skill of learning boss attacks and keeping yourself alive, because you die in one hit, you need to understand how to keep yourself alive.

    In conclusion, I like the way this style of skill development is presented, and I do wish more game's used it. It is a very satisfying way to introduce the mechanics of your game, a way that challenges the player to find them by themselves, but gives them a trail of breadcrumbs to follow and encourage exploration into these mechanics, but still add's a factor of experience into the game, where someone who hasn't had the time or opportunity to learn about these mechanics will prove to be a weaker player. Comparing myself who's played League of Legends for nearly 5 years now can competently incorporate all these things into my game without being told, whereas my friend who's only started recently could surely learn these things and is fully capable of following my instruction's in regards to them, however it isn't second nature to him yet, and it gives this edge to older player's who have more experience, something that is great for the game.

26 July 2017

The genius behind Handsome Jack

    If you wish to play Borderlands at some point and haven't already, I'd recommend doing so before reading this article, spoiler's inside.

    Video games haven't seen a great deal of amazing villain's, however there have been a few. One in particular, Handsome Jack of the Borderlands games really stands out as the best of the best. There is a lot to talk about regarding what we can learn from Handsome Jack, in this article that is exactly what I want to explore.

    When we first start up the game, Handsome Jack is there. In the establishing cut scene before we even get control of our character's, It become's clear he is a huge part of this world, appearing numerous times. He tries to kill you in a cutscene, within 5 minute's the first character you find is talking about him. It's clear that he is going to be a very big, very important part to our story. This is great for building exposition! within moments of starting the game, we have a common enemy, and thoughts of defeating him. This goal gets emphasised more as the story unfolds, and this emphasis on Handsome Jack put him in the spotlight right from the get go. This is his game, and they don't have any quarrel reminding you of that.

    They did something amazing with this character, because Jack wasn't just some enemy you had to defeat, he became a companion in a way. They constantly had Jack talking directly with the player, whether it be sharing one of his sadistic little stories, or discussing current event's, he is as much a friend to the player as he is an enemy. They do a good job of giving you this polarity in the character however, while it was certainly a risky design decision, you still fully understand he is evil and horrible, with each act of violence and cruelty reinforcing this identity. This companionship allows us to really get to explore Handsome Jack's character, we feel like we could step into his shoes for a day and no-one would notice, and that's something most villain's simply haven't accomplished.

    Jack has has an extremely dark backstory, that he delights in sharing with us. This is the important part, the voice actor has done an amazing job in remaining playful about the horrible evil deed's he's done. Right from the very beginning this is demonstrated, we hear a story about how he boards a train full of refugee's, talk's to the leader, and remark's "Alright... lady... I dunno what to call you. You tell me why you look like you headbutted a belt sander, and I'll let you all go right now." To this lady... Then shot her in the head, laughed at it, then killed the rest of the refugee's. This is just one of many stories, and it only escalated and got closer to home as the game goes on. He never lets us forget that we are enemies, even if he's joking with us and fulfilling a companion role, he know's where his priorities lie.

    He seem's unreal, however. Up until now all I've told you, he is completely one dimentional. He wants to kill everyone because he's a sad ol' fart. But that's where Angel comes into it. Angel is Jack's Daughter, the daughter who he has a really confused relationship with. He is extremely abusive to her at first glance, even wishing for her own death in the end. He used her for her power, without getting too into detail, she was a very important, very powerful person, a Siren. He straps her into a machine and makes her do his bidding. However it wasn't as simple as that, he still loved her, he was still human. He had this one humbling moment where he loses his voice. He loses his composure and he break's down, almost crying, begging you to leave his daughter alone, as she is asking you to put her out of her misery. This was crucial for grounding Jack, making him a real believable person, not just a video game character.

    These, are some of the things that make Handsome Jack such an amazing villain. We really get to know the guy, we could write an autobiography of his life. We know him to be a truly horrific person, but crucially he is still very much a person with his own thoughts and feelings, motivation's and emotions. He isn't perfect, like normal people, he has flaw's. This is a by product of Borderlands 2's amazing character writer's, we see these strength's in all the character's on Pandora, and one of the things I couldn't praise the game on highly enough.